Aspen resident expedites exit from NPR

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenMarch 8, 2011
Ron Schiller

Ronald Schiller and National Public Radio have parted ways two months ahead of schedule after the Aspen resident, caught in a firestorm of controversy over inflammatory statements he made in a hidden-camera video, said his remarks are not reflective of his own beliefs and he is resigning immediately.

“While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR’s values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended,” Schiller said in a statement released to the media this evening. “In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today.”

Late last week, before conservative activist James O'Keefe's video went viral this morning, the Aspen Institute announced Schiller was leaving NPR to direct its acclaimed arts program. He was scheduled to leave his post at NPR effective May 6 and assume his new one with the Aspen Institute effective April 1.

Within hours of the sting video's release, NPR rebuked Schiller's statements to the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center Trust. It isn't clear, however, which statements NPR found appalling since Schiller covered so much ground in the luncheon with the bogus group that offered NPR $5 million. He asserted the Tea Party — full of evangelicals and “seriously racist, racist people” — hijacked the Republican Party; that there isn't any Jewish influence on news reporting at NPR, but "it's there in those who own newspapers obviously;" and he denounces the majority of Americans as “uneducated.”

At a time when the GOP is already trying to take away funding from public radio and TV stations, Schiller, an Aspen resident since 2006, also claimed NPR would “in the long run … be better off without federal funding."

NPR's chief executive Vivian Schiller noted Schiller's comments about federal funding are not in line with the radio network's other higher-ups who have pleaded for Congress to maintain the status quo. She at first placed Schiller and another NPR executive, Betsy Liley, on administrative leave while NPR investigates the secretly recorded video.

“The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed,” NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said late Tuesday. “NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day — in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell.

"The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality,” she continued. “The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole. Prior to the lunch meeting presented in the edited video, Ron Schiller had informed NPR that he was resigning from his position to take a new job.”

Meanwhile, talking with CNN via Skype, O'Keefe said he targeted NPR over its October dismissal of analyst Juan Williams after he said he got scared when people wore Muslim garb on airplanes.

James O'Keefe

“My other colleague Simon Templar came up with the idea to have a Muslim angle since Juan Williams was fired due to his comments. So we decided to see if there was a greater truth or hidden truth amongst these reporters and journalists and executives,” O'Keefe said.

In the video, Schiller says he is “proud” of the way Williams was fired, which contradicts previous statements from NPR's bosses who say they regret how it all went down. Williams went on his new station, Fox News, today to say, “This was an act of incredible condescension. The rank hypocrisy of [Schiller's] remarks was telling for me. They will say things to your face about how there’s no liberal orthodoxy at NPR, how they play it straight, but now you see it for what it is. They prostitute themselves for money.”

The Aspen Institute so far isn't speaking publicly about the controversy enveloping Schiller. Its top spokesman hasn't returned a message from Real Aspen. And even Wolf Blitzer — a regular guest of the Aspen Institute — told viewers in “The Situation Room” this afternoon that multiple calls CNN made to the Aspen Institute have gone unanswered.

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